On Saturday, Aug. 25, thousands gathered at East Lansing's Kellogg Hotel & Conference and Breslin Centers to vote at the Michigan Democratic Party's Nominating Convention. Before casting their ballots, however, many delegates attended caucuses throughout the day to get candidates' thoughts on a variety of important issues. At the LGBT and Allies Caucus of the Michigan Democratic Party, appearances were made by a variety of notable candidates like gubernatorial candidate Gretchen Whitmer and U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow.
Equal Rights a Priority
First to speak was openly lesbian attorney general hopeful Dana Nessel, who vowed to make Michigan an LGBTQ-friendly state by amending the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, stopping state-funded adoption agencies from discriminating against LGBTQ couples and more.
"Next, I open a hate crimes division in the office of Michigan Attorney General to make certain that LGBTQ people are protected everywhere in this state. And how 'bout I do everything I can to expand the definition of gender in the Ethnic Intimidation Act to also include sexual orientation and gender identity, so that we can charge people who can commit hate crimes agains the LGBTQ population with ethnic intimidation?" Nessel said, adding that she would use her office to be firm on anti-bullying policy. "And last, but certainly not least, I will absolutely do everything in my power as Michigan Attorney General to fight as vigorously (and) as tenaciously as possible against any efforts to discriminate against the LGBTQ community by the Trump administration."
Soon after Nessel's address, Sen. Stabenow made her appearance at the caucus, emphasizing the importance of fighting against the appointment of U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. She said that if he were to gain a seat, it would be a hugely negative, long-term consequence of the 2016 election.
"This is not someone that should be on the United States Supreme Court and we are in a situation now where if we can't muster and be loud — if you know folks in Maine, if you know folks in Alaska that can approach their Senators we need them to be as loud as possible — about what is at stake. I just want you to know that I know what is at stake on every front, and we have to reach out to everyone," Stabenow said. "Elections have consequences, and we're living through (the) horror of the consequences of 2016 and we've got to turn that around."
However, Stabenow also mentioned that the candidates for the 2018 were looking especially strong. She said she felt energetic about this year's nominees.
"I'm so excited about the ticket top to bottom. We have wonderful people everywhere and I'm so excited about the commitment and energy to getting this thing done in the right way," she said. "I am laser focused and understand what is at stake, not after the election but right now in the United States Senate."
Energy in Politics
That point was echoed by openly gay Michigan State Senate candidate Jeremy Moss, who lauded Michiganders for turning out at the polls in record numbers this year. His speech encouraged supportive voters to increase turnout even further by reaching out to undecided members of the community.
"This State Senate seat that I'm running, four years ago, it was a contested primary; 29,000 voters in my district participated. Just a few weeks ago, in this primary, in this seat, 51,000 people voted. (The) highest turnout of any primary in the state of Michigan in a state senate seat," Moss said. "So, I can get you 22,000 more votes for November, but can each of you deliver 10,000 more votes in your community? Can each of you work to get 10,000 people in your neighborhoods, in your cities, in your counties, to vote? Because we will have a Democratic landslide that will give us a Democratic majority in the state senate in 2018."
With Moss appeared state Sen. Curtis Hertel Jr., who is running for his second term in the Michigan Senate who said that the most important thing in this election will be "putting Jeremy in the majority."
"I have never seen the amount of energy and excitement that I have seen this year. I've travelled all over the state, I've been to Kalamazoo, Monroe, the UP, down to Oakland County, from Bay City to Muskegon. Every place I go, Democrats are on the margin, Democrats are going to win," Hertel Jr. said. "You won't see us for 30 days. We'll put cots there. We'll undue eight years of Republican rule."
Fighting Against Bigotry
Whitmer also made sure to make an appearance at the caucus with her running mate Garlin Gilchrist at her side. She focused primarily on diversity while addressing the crowd.
"We've got a massive opportunity here. This race is not just about the governor's race, although I will tell you, I think that's the most important one," Whitmer said. "You know, the governor sets the agenda, writes the budget, makes the appointments from boards and commissions to a cabinet, and it is about darn time that we a cabinet that is reflective of this state, of the gender diversity of this state, of the racial diversity, of the religious diversity, the sexual orientation diversity. How we identify, none of that matters and yet, it matters a great deal."
Whitmer underscored her point when she brought up the lack of diversity in the decisions that started the internationally-known Flint water crisis.
"When the decision was made to switch the Flint water, there was not a person from Flint sitting around the table, there was not a person of color sitting around the table, there was not a woman sitting around the table," Whitmer said. "Diversity is a strength and real empowerment is what I'm interested in."
Gilchrist said that voters who are still undecided about whether to choose gubernatorial candidate Bill Schuette or Whitmer should examine the civil rights struggles that still exist in the state.
"This choice could not be more clear this November; you literally have bigotry in opposition with partnership … you literally have someone who wants to take our rights away, versus people who are ready to work alongside and expand rights," Gilchrist said. "Why is it that it is still legal to fire someone in the state of Michigan because of their gender identity or sexual orientation? This is 2018, and that is the civil rights struggle that we continue to fight, and I am proud to have a courageous fighter and warrior to work alongside in Gretchen Whitmer."